Staunton, July 3 – “Ukraine is not simply a country,” New Region news agency chief Aleksandr Shchetilin says, “it is precisely Rus, where all Slavic and all human values have not been forgotten” and thus a magnet for all Slavs who have been horrified by the direction that Russia has taken both as a society and a country.
In a 4,000-word interview with Siberian journalist Dmitry Shipilov published in Novy Kuzbass and then reposted on Shchetilin’s own NR2.com portal, Shchetilin says that the Kremlin artificially created the Russian-Ukrainian conflict precisely because Moscow has departed from Slavic and human values.
Earlier this year, Shchetilin was under enormous pressure from the Russian authorities for his honest coverage of Ukraine’s Maidan revolution. Ultimately, he was forced to leave the news agency he founded, considered emigration to Lithuania, and then gave up his Russian citizenship in favor of Ukrainian.
Shchetilin, a native of Kemerovo oblast who worked as a journalist in Siberia at the end of Soviet times and then in Moscow, devoted much of the interview to events there, including the corruption of various officials and the tightening of restrictions on journalistic and other freedoms in the Russian Federation.
Today, Shchetilin says, “Ukraine is a free state which absolutely corresponds to [his] ideas about a state which is looking to the future.” As such, it is the real “Rus, a place where” unlike in Russia genuine Slavic and human value are promoted rather than suppressed and where again unlike in Russia people won’t have to wait for the changes they seek.
Shchetilin, who has worked as a journalist in Kyiv and is married to a Ukrainian, says that during the Maidan he learned to write about what was going on “in as honest a way as possible.” That meant, among other things, that his agency did not put anything on its site that others had written but only that which he and his colleagues had prepared.
The need to do that, he continues, arose from what is taking place in Russia media. It is no longer possible to call it journalism and it is not even propaganda of the normal kind. Instead, it is “simply a lie,” reportage that doesn’t just distort reality but “consciously constructs” imagery completely at odds with what is happening.
The journalist says that he understands perfectly well why this has happened: “Putin is afraid of a Maidan” in Moscow “under the walls of the Kremlin.” Moreover, he can see that in Ukraine, there is a real civil society and real political parties. In Russia, on the other hand, “civil society doesn’t exist, political parties are a caricature created by the Kremlin, and free media can be counted on the fingers of one hand.”
Regarding Putin whom Shchetilin has described as his “personal enemy,” the journalist says that he feels that way because “precisely thanks to him, Russia is now in such a terrible situation,” one in which its people have been “zombified.” The Kremlin leader is “a war criminal,” and he along with his entourage must be handed over to an international tribunal.
Shchetilin said that many more Russians are likely to follow his path to Ukraine and that Kyiv must be ready for this. Some are already speaking about a new Russian emigration, but this one will be different: few who leave will ever think about going back because in fact “Russia already long ago died,” even if few have been prepared to say so openly.
The journalist said he spoke some Ukrainian but didn’t need to use it that much in Kyiv. People there and in most of Ukraine speak Russian but that does not make them pro-Moscow, yet another aspect of the situation Putin doesn’t understand and that the Russian and international media misinterpret.
He said that the situation in Ukraine now reminds him of a joke from the end of Soviet times. According to the story, people asked what distinguished an internationalist from a nationalist. The answer: “a nationalist knows at a minimum two languages, but an internationalist only one and that badly.”